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Berman Sketching: Drawing on the River for Kids


Sketching should be available for everyone. Joel Berman’s experience teaching freehand sketching to kids reflects his commitment to sharing the joy of sketching with others, regardless of their age. Felipe, marketing intern at Berman Architecture, interviews Alec Gross, who sought out Joel’s sketching expertise to teach his two kids (ages 6 and 8) how to freehand sketch buildings and bridges in the city of Chicago. As a self proclaimed "river rat," Joel met with Alec and his family at many docks on the Chicago river on his kayak, including Goose Island, Montgomery Wards warehouses, Lawrence Fisheries, Chinatown, Ping Tom Park, Wolf Point, and Ogden Slip. Throughout the dozen or so sketching tutorials with Joel, the kids made outstanding progress in learning the basics of composition, shading, value. contour, and persepctive.


Felipe: How did you hear about Berman Sketching?


Alec: I heard about [Joel] from a newsletter for this organization that I volunteer for called Urban Rivers. My kids have really enjoyed drawing for a long time and I've been looking for a drawing class that was serious, but a lot of the art classes for kids that are offered at art centers tend to be more play and not that serious.


Felipe: From your perspective, how has learning how to freehand sketch influenced your kids?


Alec: I think one thing that the class afforded them was a cool vantage point and some dedicated time to really make drawings. When they draw at home they rip through papers — drawing random stuff, sometimes they make books, sometimes they draw dinosaurs, sometimes they make cartoons. This was a time where they could really focus on one thing and do it really well, and Joel showed them new techniques and also taught them new vocabulary for thinking about and talking about what they were drawing. I saw a huge amount of progress. Even from the first day I was blown away. It exceeded expectations.


Felipe: What do you see as the value of learning how to sketch at a young age, to go out into the city and capture a scene?


Alec: As far as the value of being able to go into the city and sketch what you see, I think there is intrinsic value. For them it's cool because they like things that they see and they like to draw things “realistic,” as they like to say it. So I think that it was just fun for them to be able to do that and create pictures they were proud of making.


Felipe: What do you think makes Joel a good teacher?


Alec: Joel is serious but can also be silly and lighthearted. He cares about my kids as individuals and was very accommodating. He treated them with respect and had high expectations for both of them.


Learn more about Joel Berman's teaching engagements here.

Images courtesy of Alec Gross.